Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas-Waiting for Godot and other wishes

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone. If you are in New York and want to do something enjoyable during the holiday season, go see Waiting for Godot at the Cort Theater. It is considered by many to be Beckett's best, certainly most famous, play. We sat in the second row, and watching Ian McKellan living his character onstage is a treat. He and Patrick Stewart seem to have a real complicity between them, which makes the play work. It is one of the few productions of Beckett that didn't put me to sleep. Beckett is the greatest modern playwright the world has, in my opinion. And, being a great writer should mean that we love his plays. And, understand what he is saying. We do in this production, though, like every successful production of Beckett I've seen recently, they do it at the expense of his pauses. Like all productions, the pauses here are less than one breath, if at all. But, that said, the production is funny. We sat next to a couple whom I overheard saying that they had never been to anything except musical comedies. They were here because the girl loves Patrick Stewart from Star Trek. During intermission, they asked my wife what the play was about, as they heard her speaking French. And, obviously, French people must be intelligent and know about Beckett. She encouraged them to simply listen. They did, and enjoyed themselves, while we all were Waiting for Godot. The rest of the actors, Shuler Hensley as Pozzo, and Billy Crudup as Lucky, work hard, are very competent. But, they are not in the same league with Mr McKellen. In truth, there were moments when I thought that he and Mr Stewart should have changed roles, as he seemed so much more intelligent and thoughtful, and I think that the characters of Vladimir, played by Mr Stewart, and Estragon, played by Mr McKellen, are the opposite. But, it didn't stop me from enjoying their relationship, or the play. After all, I didn't go to the theater to see my production of the play. But, theirs. They seemed to warm up as they went along, and by the second act, they were flying along. From the beginning, the audience began to laugh, and I knew that they were reacting according to what review they had read. But, human beings, unfortunately, have lost their childlike ability to respond honestly and spontaneously to what they are experiencing. In this theater, like when I saw The Jacksonian, they sold drinks in the orchestra floor, and it was littered with playbills, and empty plastic bottles and paper cups by the end of the evening. I just don't like that. But, if you've been sitting around waiting for Godot, go see this production. It will make life interesting for awhile, and help you to feel that life is worth living.

On that thought, I have some Christmas wishes. As the United States enrolls in Affordable Health Care, I wish that the Government, including Congress and the President, will do something about making Health Care affordable. Like, regulating the prices of drugs. Years ago, my wife needed a prescription for eliminating toenail fungus. It cost $900.00 here. We bought it in Paris for 47€, about $62.00. And, aspiring should not cost $38.00 in a hospital. Nor should a forty-five minute physical therapy session cost $2,700.00. Etc. etc. And, the government is trying to negotiate trade agreements to force other countries to raise the prices of drugs, instead of lowering them, here. I guess the $500,000,000 yes, half a billion dollars spent on politicians by the drug lobby is working well.

Another wish, Congress will decide to limit the length of terms of office of its members. We have limited the Presidency to two terms. Why not limit Senators to two terms, and Congressmen to five or six?

Another wish, that the Internet will remain free, and that it will revolutionize cable television, and television, the way television revolutionized movies. And, movies revolutionized theater, along with the Kennedy's, whose policies of government support for non-profit theater outside of New York City revolutionized the Theater. Maybe, not all for the better. But, it certainly gave us more choices.

I realize that my blog's are about many subjects. And, I am aware that is not always a good thing. Because, people may not be able to say what my blog's are about, in a simple and clear way, so that people know how to think about my blog. Well, just think about it as being about life. After all, isn't that what art is, the artist's reflection and expression of his or her's perception of life?

Again, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. And, please, if you like my blogs, turn other people on to them. And, subscribe, here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Jacksonian by Beth Henley and American acting

Well, I feel great. Finally, I saw a production with a wonderful group of American actors, whose work exemplifies what is uniquely American, and is equal to any of the English actors one can see in productions in New York. In this period in New York theater, the English dominate the acting scene, whether I like what they do, or not, the English have a skill that is admirable to see. To see Americans with the same level of skill is a pleasure, and a relief.

On the night I went to The Acorn Theater, one of a series of small theaters on Theater Row at 42nd Street, the audience had a large number of tourists from the Southern United States. Normal, it's a play written by a Southerner, with famous American actors. The theater is one of several that have been redesigned. The architects took the five buildings that were formerly there, which housed small, railroad, black box theaters, and completely transformed the space into wide, comfortable, well done Off-Broadway theaters. This one has 199 seats, all of them good, with legroom! There is a bar on the second floor, and some of the spectators brought their drinks into the theater. I'm not a fan of that, and don't know whether they snuck them in. Or, whether the theater has a policy of allowing drinks in the theater during the performance. At any rate, alcohol in the theater is not the equivalent of drinking tea during intermission in London.

The play was a surprise. I like Ms. Henley's work. And, I liked this one, too. But, it is very dark. I think that the audience was surprised, especially those from the South. Because, we were all waiting for the lovely, sad and funny world of Crimes of the Heart. And, this is not that. It has the wonderful characters that Ms Henley knows. But, the situation, which also has a murder in it, and a family with problems, and heartbreak, also is, well, just darker. I'm not going to tell the story. Go see the play.

All of the actors are good. I've always liked Ed Harris. A nd, he is superb. I saw him and Glenn Headly years ago in Fool for Love. And, have followed their work ever since. They have a scene in this play that is fantastic. And, to my mind, their work in this scene exemplifies a level of work that has an energy in it that exemplifies the best American acting. Amy Madigan is wonderful as Mr. Harris' wife, in a role that could disappear, she doesn't. And, the rest, Bill Pullman as a barman, and Juliet Brett as Mr. Harris and Ms Madigan's daughter, hold their own with this group. Especially the work of Mr Pullman and Ms Headly, who play character roles, exemplifies the difference between what the Engish do, and what Americans do. Because, both of their characters are rendered with the same reality and skill that we see in major roles in most English productions. But, not with the secondary roles, which are played by competent actors, but they are not as real and skillful as the actors who play major roles. Here, all the actors are on the same level of skill. There are moments I might like it to be more real. But, I always think that. I am obsessed about not wanting to be aware that an actor is acting. This is especially true in the first part of the play. Perhaps, some of the playing I didn't like comes from some style that may be imposed by the director, but Robert Fall's is a good production.  But, at the end of the evening, I was more than satisfied Go see it!